March Madness

March 18, 2009

Imagine this scenario…

I have a son with a love for music, singing, dancing and drama.  Plus he is blessed with a magnetic personality and beautiful eyes — gifts bestowed by God, enjoyed by all.

Well, time passes, and as his talents grow through practice and perseverence, he is recruited by a movie director who wants him to star in a re-make of a classic film without an official title. 

Naturally as his parents, his mother and I are thrilled, but also concerned.  We want to know what this means.

So, the Producer and Director come to sit down for a visit to unfold the wonderful details.  “Your son has major talent and he will be a real star in this new production.  We are already doing major promotion and this movie stands to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars.  You know, pre-production hype, commercials, sponsorships, theater receipts, touring in national venues, pop-corn sales, you name it…”

“Why, Kenner and Hasbro want to market dolls and accessories all resembling your son, and these will be sold world-wide!  Then there’ll be t-shirts, sneakers, with your son’s name prominently emblazoned.  Kids will love him!”

They continue, “Best case scenario though is that shooting will take the better part of four years, and we will need to have your son available for rehearsal and shooting pretty much every day.  He’ll have to practice pretty hard…”

“What about University?” we ask.

“No problem!  We will supply your young lad with his own private tutor, working with him whether we’re in California or out on location.”

“But,” we counter, “Won’t he miss out on the experience of having classmates and lectures, and just normal activities with his regular friends?”

“I guess…” says the Director, “But he’ll be gaining a whole lot of other experience he can use later on, especially if his acting career takes off in the future!”

“OK…  So how much will my son be paid?”

“Paid?  What do you mean, paid?” asks the incredulous Producer.

“Paid.  How much will he make for his starring role in this movie?  How much will he be entitled to from all the marketing, the toys, the dolls, the accessories, the ticket sales, the touring, the pop-corn?”

“Excuse me?” spits out the Director, “Your son doesn’t get paid!  He’s an amateur!  Where’s the love of the craft?  Where’s the gratitude for the opportunity we’re giving him?  Let’s be clear, we’ll give your kid his own trailer, plus meals in the cafeteria, plus a daily allowance for incidentals, scripts, make-up, costumes…” 

“Plus,” whispers the Director, “He can use my extra Porche, kind of like his own personal car, but that’s not for public consumption…”

“What do you mean?” I wonder.

“Mr. Keane…  Bill… Can I call you Bill?  Bill.  The fact is your son isn’t allowed to be paid.  It’s not legal.”

“What do you mean?”

“According to the rules of the National Collaboration of Amateur Actors and Actresses, which we call the NC-Triple-A, your son needs to be protected from those vultures who want to turn our hallowed craft into a cynical grab for money!”

“Vultures?”

“You got it, with agents, who will offer your son millions to star in their professional movies, leaving behind the innocence, the joy, the unique and youthful experience he can have with us.”

“Do you mean there will be others who will guarantee my son millions just to sign with them, regardless of his future circumstances?” I ask.

“Yes.  Because of his talent, he can make millions before even reading a line, but think of all he’ll be giving up — his education, his collegial experiences, the purity of playing for the ‘love of the game’, if you will…”

“But, if he gets millions just to sign, can’t he just buy his own tutor, or even return to full-time studies later on, if he wants to complete his education, this time without having to worry about practice and travel?”

“Mr. Keane, you’re not getting it,” says the Producer, shaking his head.

“We’re offering your child the opportunity of a lifetime to star in one of the most lucrative productions in modern media history!”

“Yeah, and just to let you in,” says the Director, “The movie now has a working title.”

“We’re calling it, ‘March Madness’.”

Indeed.


Microsurfed

March 17, 2009

Just got a new PC, which means half my stuff doesn’t work with it…

Actually, it’s great.  Vista 64-bit and VERY fast.  But I couldn’t figure out how to transfer my email address book from the old to the new machine.

So, I called MicroSoft!  And because I’d never called them before I got a free support option, routing me to India.  In just a few moments, me and “Reggie” were getting on famously!  Like we’d been buddies since birth!

Now get this…  My new friend on the other end offered the option of allowing him to take control of my computer (a la the old Outer Limits), and lo and behold, in one minute, I watched in amazement as my cursor travelled on its own through various steps, guided from, what, 15,000 miles away?

What a small planet we live on.

Do you think that eventually we will all be as close socially, politically, emotionally and morally as we are economically and technologically? 

Wouldn’t that be the day.

Just one computer adjusted, but I see no reason why relationships can’t be the same.

To some, this is an impossible dream.

But remember, the aformentioned fix would have been a complete fantasy only 10 years ago.

Today, we are better with machines than men and women.

Tomorrow?  We’ll see.


Stem Sells

March 10, 2009

Relative to life in its earliest expressions, when asked by Rick Warren on national TV when a baby is entitled to human rights, then candidate Barack Obama said the question was “above my paygrade.”  Responding to the exact same query, John McCain replied, “At the moment of conception.”

Scientifically speaking, human embryos contain all the genetic substance necessary for development through every stage of life that follows.  Parents facing difficulty having children are acutely aware of the crucial moment of conception, for it is from this very moment that the only things required for successful continuance on the continuum of life are:  nourishment and proper environment.  Human embryos are thus implanted, and if any one is not rejected, then in a little more than 9 months, you have a wriggling, gurgling, cuddly, cute little baby.

Those embryos not used for this purpose are kept in storage, and are now one of the main focus points for stem-cell research.

Now, a human embryo is about the size of the period ending this sentence.

In other words, YOU were once the size of the period at the end of this sentence.  YOU.  Period.

Perhaps at that point, you are now of the curious opinion that you were not worth very much.  Certainly from a size standpoint alone, you were not very big.

Still, it cannot be denied that even at that tiny stage, you were incredibly, profoundly and uniquely significant.  For it is directly and irrefutably connected to this most primitive moment that, in time, we wind up with common people and powerful presidents alike.  Everyone who has ever lived began their journey at this very moment.  With sperm or eggs alone, you cannot realize a human being.  Yet, from the instant these two elements are completely bound together, an almost indescribably wonderful process fully begins.

The inarguably special essence that emerges from this union can be frozen, or even discarded, but it can never be duplicated or replaced.  Never.

Scientifically, let alone religiously, when it comes to humanity, essence precedes function, and if, at the moment of conception, we do not have a human being, then we never will at any subsequent stage.  Never.  Period.

That’s biology, not theology.

It’s not about what we can do, that determines our identity, it’s about what we are.  People are not human because they can reason, they can reason because they are human.

So now, in the supposed cause of science, human embryos can be harvested and thus destroyed for their stem-cells.  But if, scientifically, human embryos are in fact human life, one wonders if theologically, or ethically, their systematic elimination should be federally sanctioned and fiscally supported.  

The benefits are clear.  But do they outweight the costs?  Scientifically, why stop at using embryos?  The truth is, all manner of useful things could be taken from individuals at all phases of early development.  We seem clear on why this is unethical after birth, but now we have opened the door for procedures occuring at times well before an infant’s arrival in the local delivery room.

After all, if conception isn’t morally critical, why would the essence of a human being at 4 weeks, or 10 weeks, or 12 weeks gestation be?

For instance, if a pregnancy can legally be terminated, at will, up to 16 weeks and beyond (it can), by lifting the stem-cell ban, aren’t we now opening the door for experimental practices involving infants in the womb as well?  Some might instantly say, “Of course not!” 

Oh really?  Why not? 

If the unborn can be fully terminated by personal choice, what will stop the movement toward eminent exploitation, perhaps for a good purpose, but also for simple profit? 

By not drawing a clear line condoning off the moment of human conception, we have actually made very gray the subsequent demarcations and turned a path of increasing development into a slippery slope of what is deemed scientifically practical and, let’s be honest, politically expedient.

Isn’t it interesting that, in point of fact, strong proponents of stem-cell research have indeed determined that life at conception is critical for their work.

Absolutely critical for experimentation, but apparently not very critical for protection.

Interesting, and, I think, very revealing.

While I am sure he is a good man, with high ideals, I am afraid I have to agree with our new President concerning the question of human rights for human babies. 

It is above his paygrade. 

Unfortunately, reversing a prior policy on this issue was not beneath a signature stroke of his pen.


Secretary of State

March 8, 2009

This past week has been a gaffe-prone series of visits by our new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

“Informing” the European Parliament that our democracy was much older than theirs, mispronouncing various key names, then handing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a gag gift, where the joke wound up on us…  Apparently our entire Department of State was completely unable to come up with a correct translation of RESET. 

Incredible.

Plus the Brits are in a snit because of the way they perceive their Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was received by our President…

Stepping back for a second, and putting this all into perspective, can you imagine if any of these indiscretions, real or perceived, had been committed by the Bush Administration?

Sure you can.

If our European friends wanted a different administration to work with, they have one.

Dr. Condoleeza Rice would have translated the English/Russian thing herself.

I guess not every Secretary of State can do that.